Dr. Marc Gafni, My Friend, a Voice of Hope Grounded in Love
The most recent expressions of malice began, presciently enough, on Christmas morning 2015. On that morning a short column appeared on the New York Times website: A Spiritual Leader Gains Stature, Trailed by a Troubled Past. The appearance of that article may have surprised some, but not its subject, Dr. Marc Gafni. He had been warned, warned that someone was gunning for him, warned by the questions the article’s author had asked him (and for that matter, those he didn’t), warned about the coming fury as one man, Steve Dinan, owner of The Shift Network, declared his intention to save “the world” from Marc Gafni. The injustice perpetrated against Marc, an injustice made stunningly obvious in this article, would have destroyed a lesser man. So insidious, so filled with blatant misdirection, distortion and hyperbole—oh hell, let’s call it what it is—an attack so filled with lies, that it might have successfully undermined every gorgeous, insightful, and outrageously loving move Marc Gafni has ever made. I’m told that the perpetrators of this smear campaign, this campaign of lies, don’t quite get why their attacks haven’t gotten the job done. There’s a reason for that, and it gets to the heart of who this man is. It gets to why it matters that you understand the breadth and depth of malice being launched at him from the dark and distorted corners of the erstwhile “evolutionary community.”
Why do I care? Why should you? Three months into this travesty I sat on a Zoom call with 30 or so people I am proud to call my friends. All were Marc’s friends. Some of us had lost jobs because of the smear (no joke, people called some of our employers seeking to get us fired)! All of us had been disappointed to see relationships fraying as people we thought of as friends embraced the hysteria, the rumors. You might expect the conversation would have centered on what we might do to “get them back,” what we might do to get back at the perpetrators. But that was not the tenor of this conversation, nor any other I’ve been privy to during this entire smear campaign. Instead, as each person spoke, it was clear we were seeking Spirit’s next move; confronted by hatred we prayed for love to evolve. We concluded that Spirit’s call was to shine a light on the methods, the motives and the madness of a smear campaign. One person after the other spoke of seeking Spirit’s next move; we were looking to love even this moment open. Let me be clear: it was Marc Gafni who set that tone. Marc refuses to be defined by this injustice or to have his capacity for love be undermined in the moment.
Marc is one of my closest friends. He has been for years. I want to begin by sharing the Marc I know with you. I want to describe the man I’ve known through my years of interaction with him. (Some, I know, would suggest that I’m under some kind of occult spell that Marc has cast upon me. You need to stop saying that; you’re making me vomit.) I trust my words will help the reader get a glimpse of why Marc has not only survived these injustices, but has spiritually and intellectually thrived in and through them.
During the years of lies leveled against him, he has written and published six new volumes—all of them offering teaching of significant substance. He founded a new theory of Self, Unique Self theory. From that he initiated a working think tank, one that calls forth great minds in a wide variety of fields, to address its implications. As if that weren’t enough, he initiated and led two, (for me), life changing, Integral Spiritual Experience events, the Success 3.0 Summit, a wisdom school and mystery school, (the first in the States, the second in Holland), and is even now, as I write, preparing what might become his most important work. Working together with many colleagues from the think tank and beyond he is tirelessly, steadily, persistently producing a new body of work. One thinker, Barbara Marx Hubbard, calls this work the “best new evolutionary memes we have to carry us forward . . . ”
But all of that is really beside the point. I have seen Marc close up, in the best of times and in arguably, the worst of times. I have seen a person filled with paradoxes. He is utterly absorbed and dedicated to his life mission, but at the same time he can drop in and listen to someone else at a level that can change them. I got a message from him not too long ago: “You are a great man. You have the capacity to express the love that powers all of creation. You’ve already done so in MANY, MANY, MANY, MANY, ways. (You know Marc, never use one superlative when four will do :-). God I love him.) Don’t forget that, and if you do, call me—day or night—I’ll remind you.” He sent that to me when he heard I had gotten some very, very, very, very, disappointing news. (Okay, so I may have picked up a couple of mannerisms, but at least I didn’t use all caps!?) He meant it. I’m not the only one who receives that quality of love from Marc. It’s an experience I share with virtually everyone he works with.
I have worked with him during these challenging times. I’ve seen him encourage and inspire people, leading by example with an overflowing heart and a huge work ethic. I have seen him make mistakes. I’ve seen him struggle. I’ve seen the awful toll all of this has taken. His capacity for forgiveness takes my breath away, and when he looks in the mirror, and sees his mistakes, you can count on an apology—not just the words of an apology, but the attitude of one too. Who does that nowadays? I’ll be asking that question again in earnest, at the end of this article.
Have you ever heard Marc Gafni teach? You should. The man teaches like something that is hard to describe, but that won’t keep me from trying. He gave a two hour keynote at the second Integral Spiritual Experience. It was a sermon really. I know something about that; I‘ve preached for 20+ years and I’ve been teaching it for 13 years. (If you know of someone who needs a preaching coach—most of we preachers do—please send them my way.) Sermons, in my view, are meant to give people an experience of the truth, an experience of that movement of love in our lives that changes us. To do that you need to connect people to the despair they carry, and then provide a vision of hope that can lift them from that place. But those things must be in balance or the hearer is left in despair. Marc used examples that night, that brought us into the desperate darkness of human depravity. If any one of my students had used such examples I would have stopped them in their tracks and said, “You said that for the drama; there is no way you are going to carry us out of the despair you’ve brought to our door, so do us a favor and sit down.” But that night, Marc pulled it off. As the minutes ticked by, inching towards midnight, the hope started to build—it was a weave of stunningly brilliant content and deep spiritual transmission—and then he broke through. He broke through with such joy, such utter confidence in the reality, and the power, of creative love in the world, that I broke down in tears of joy. I was in the balcony. I practically flew down to the stage and threw my arms around him.
You could feel the truth and depth of spirit in your body that night. Then, and on so many other nights since, Marc has reconnected anyone who will listen to a sense of what he calls Outrageous Love, a connection to a personal God. With that connection comes a desire to live what he calls “Unique Self,” to be part of the “Unique Self symphony.” Other traditions will have other words for this—that’s the point. He’s talking about the fundamental point of engagement between the great spiritual traditions. He is offering that clarion call which has gone forth from the mouths of spiritual masters from China, to India, to Europe, to the Americas—from the dawn of human culture to this very day. Dr. Marc Gafni, D.Phil., (for here is where it becomes so abundantly clear what he did to get that D.Phil. from Oxford University—that’s right, the malicious rumors are WRONG; he did, in fact, earn his doctorate at Oxford), but I digress . . . [Marc] has drawn his profound understanding of the self and its relation to the divine, from a close reading of sacred texts. Said better, he draws it from what the Christian mystics would have called “an ontic merging with the sacred text.” Few could ferret out those insights, fewer still can offer an inspired, coherent, and relevant message in response. (For those in the Judeo-Christian traditions it will suffice to say that Marc attempts, with astonishing success, to make sense of the near sacrifice of Isaac, a truly terrifying story in Genesis 22—nobody does that.) When Marc opens sacred text, it shimmers in his hands. He knows that and wants, almost desperately, to use this gift he knows is generated by Spirit, to provide a way forward, beyond the deconstruction of the world’s great religions. But most of all what he seeks to create through all of this, is a new “dharma”—a new Integral world story that can “carry us forward” refreshed, renewed, . . . alive.
But all this comes with a cost. I’ve watched as time and time again this has produced a kind of primal jealousy among his, (I can’t believe I have to call them this), competitors. Hell, I’ll own it; I’ve felt that jealousy too. I’m a pretty good preacher, at least most folks willing to say, say that I am), but when Marc is in the flow, when he’s weaving erudition, passion, and transmission into one of his transformative tapestries, well, I love him and I hate him, both at the same time. It took me years to work with that, to move beyond projecting my own stuff onto him.
Marc Gafni is a “yuge,” powerful, and paradoxically, oh so vulnerable figure—wise and yet naïve. I think he is beautiful. I also think that, like every other human being on the planet, he is imperfect. But I’m not going to outline his imperfections here; I won’t satisfy the prurient desire to stand in judgment over another human being; I’m not going to reveal his humanity to you because I know the maelstrom of malice will feed on it and distort anything I say beyond recognition. Marc is a fascinating man. He is fiercely committed and singly focused, expressing creative love—Eros—as best he can. But what’s most essential these days, at least to me, is that the suffering he’s endured has somehow cracked him open.
Peter Dunlap, Ph.D., Marc’s psychologist, (yes, Marc believes that therapy should be part of a teacher’s spiritual practice), described him as, (in the best sense of the word), “a mutant who brings us gifts that we need to protect.” I agree. I do not think that I have met a person as naturally unguarded as Marc—that is his naiveté. I write this article to offer some protection to a man, a friend, who has suffered injustice, one who refuses to walk away from his call. He keeps on doing what he has always done; seeks to love the world and love all of us in it, into its next beautiful expression of evolution. Without this preface about my friend, Marc Gafni, the pain and the outrage I feel at the malicious lies that are to be described in the coming pages, will not make much sense.
I write about one small part of this story of injustice, the part I’ve seen up close and personal. I intend to reflect, or maybe reveal, the motivation driving the smear . . . but also why the smear must fail. I write in the closing weeks of December 2016 and will at the end of this piece, call the reader to stand, for if the last few weeks have taught us anything, it is that if we do not insist on truth, all will be lost.
For more on Marc Gafni and his story you can visit WhoIsMarcGafni.com. The site is a compendium of articles, videos, interviews and the like, which offer a very different narrative from that of the smear campaign. It has the “ring of truth” and I encourage the reader to use the site.
Links to the other parts of this essay: